It’s widely known that canines can be trained to detect diseases in humans, and now British researchers have been awarded a contract to train bio-detection dogs as a rapid-testing measure for COVID-19. The UK government partnered with the Medical Detection Dogs charity and several universities to develop the program.
“When you have a disease, whether it’s a virus or a parasite, it changes the body odor so you actually smell differently. We’ve demonstrated this already with diseases like malaria, for example,” professor John Logan, head of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is involved in the program, told Euronews.
“And we know for other diseases like certain types of cancers, Parkinson’s, even detection of epileptic seizures or blood sugar levels, that dogs do this with a very high level of accuracy,” he added.
Logan said that the initial training phase would take eight to 10 weeks to see if the dogs can accurately detect COVID-19 before a person displays symptoms. If the first phase is successful, six dogs may be deployed in airports and other key points of entry to rapidly screen travelers entering the U.K. According to Euronews, one dog could screen up to 250 incoming passengers per hour.
Logan says his team is using labradors, cocker spaniels and some dogs that are a mix of the two breeds, which are all well-known for their highly developed sense of smell.
According to Live Science, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine are also “putting noses to the grindstone for disease detection.” Dogs that can pinpoint the scent of COVD-19 could identify infection in people who are asymptomatic and could play a valuable role, especially as people return to work, says Penn Vet, which adds that their dogs may be ready to start sniffing humans by July.
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